9.29.2008

nonstick... ick?

we've been cooking with cast iron recently. i have to say i rather like it. we've got a large 12-inch skillet that was given to me by my grandpa when he was cleaning out his garage, and also a tiny 5-inch skillet that i got from a restaurant after (a very long time ago) begging the waiter to let me have it. for the most part we can get by on just these two pans. we've got a couple of stainless steel ones on hand in case we're cooking up a bunch of food, but that's pretty rare.

anyway, cast iron is easy to clean, provided that it's well seasoned and that you don't use soap--my good friend kelli is super grossed out by this, but using soap would strip the oils from the pans, taking away every last bit of their non-sticky functionality. you also can't put them into the dishwasher--something i learned about 8 months back. the result, if you don't know, is a highly rusted mess that needs to be scrubbed, sanded and seasoned multiple times to get it back to good.

what's the deal with nonstick pans? here's what i've found:

1. nonstick cookware is coated with a chemical called polytetrafluoroethylene (ptfe). when ptfe gets very hot, it released hazardous fumes.

2. the synthetic chemical (perfluorooctanoic acid) used to make ptfe is linked to cancer & birth defects in animals and "may" pose a risk to humans. the "society of the plastics industry" found perfluorooctanoic acid in the blood of 95% of the u.s. population.

3. dupont teflon, the best-known brand of nonstick cookware, recommends that users not heat pans over 500 degrees--which one can only assume is to prevent the release of chemical fumes. they also recommend cooking with their products in a well-ventilated area.

4. according to the environmental working group (a non-profit environmental research organization), "a preheated pan on high heat can exceed 600 degrees in 2-5 minutes."

5. birds cannot tolerate the toxic chemicals released by overheated nonstick cookware. the same fumes that can cause flu-like symptoms in humans can easily kill a pet bird.

all of our nonstick cookware (except our pancake griddle) has found a brand-new home in the garage for now. when excellent alternatives are right at hand, i don't feel there's any reason to use something that "might" be harmful, or that i have to "watch carefully to avoid overheating" and "use in a ventilated area." don't you think?

i've been changing out my nonstick bakeware over the last few years with enamelware and glass, just because they look nicer in my kitchen. now i'll have my eyes out for a loaf pan or two, and probably a cake pan, along with a used cast iron pancake griddle. maybe i'll find something at the next antique fair.

and then i will worry no more about the ick of nonstick!

5 comments:

Molly said...

I use pampered chef stoneware for all my baking - it's wonderful stuff! Yet again, you don't wash with soap - simply rinse with water and scrape with the wonderful plastic scraper!
What do you know about the anodized cookware? Does this have the same "possibly" toxic properties? This is what we use (calphalon) and now you've got me wondering!

nick_price said...

erin,

there is nothing wrong with using a little bit of regular dish soap on cast iron. you only run into problems when you over soak. The proper method is to "clean as you go". directly after finishing cooking, transfer the food to a serving dish, soak the pan in the sink with some warm soapy water, then when you are done with dinner, scrub the pan with a good dobie and leave to air dry.

-nick

erin said...

thank you, my dear brother. have you run this theory by dad? b/c he and mom were over here on friday, and mom cleaned my pan with a bit of soap, and he was very firm in his belief that what she didas a genuine cast-iron faux pas.

hmm?

erin said...

molly--

i have that scraper! doesn't it work wonders?

as for the anodized cookwear being harmful, i really have no idea. in reading a bit, i guess the worry is that the aluminum can transfer to the food. aluminum is identified as a neurotoxin to humans when ingested, i guess. there's some good info here.

http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=dailytip&dbid=66

i will look into the pampered chef stuff. thanks for the tip. and i hope that link helps!

Molly said...

Erin,
Those scrapers ARE wonderful! I use the thing for far more than just my stoneware! It's great for getting those nasty dried globs of food off the counter or stove - those sticky things that my 2-year-old often leaves behind. lol I know you've been into breadmaking, the PC stoneware bread pan is the BEST! I use my 9x13 stoneware for everything - cakes, lasagna, hotdish, etc. Between my friends having a party all the time and my bridal shower, I think I own almost every piece of their stoneware :)
Onto the cookware...thanks for the link - I read it and then went onto another article that gives some good information - you just have to weed through some of the rambling.
http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/consumer/con00036.html
Apparently, Calphalon claims they have a final process with their anodized cookware that will not allow it to leach.